Stuart Arends

There To Here

I started using found material in 1980, but only on specific occasions. Normally, I didn’t use found material, with the exception of a few boxes, but they weren’t even old. A few years ago, while I was in a antique shop in Iowa looking for some objects to buy for my own home, I noticed a pile of wooden blocks with the alphabet and pictures in relief. Something about them drew my attention, so, almost on a whim, I bought a few of them and took them back to my studio. They sat there on a shelf for a whole year before I finally figured out what I might do with them. The result of my work was what I now call “Kid Blocks”. Those pieces are more powerful and intriguing than I had imagined at first, and thanks to that first attempt, I was encouraged to search for other “found objects” that I could take back to the studio and rework: boxes, small boats, and many other forms. So what began simply out of curiosity led to a complete turnaround in my work, and I believe this will continue into the near future as well.

Stuart Arends (born in 1950 Iowa, currently lives and works in New Mexico) presents his third solo show at Studio Dabbeni, where a series of unpublished works made over the past two years are on view. The American artist has focused on the use of “found” boxes and toys, modifying them with oil paint and wax. Arends’ work has always wavered from sculpture to painting, but recently his refined minimalist style has involved objects that are no longer mere neutral supports: rather, they are laden with intimate feelings or references linked to visual and cognitive memory in which the artist’s tactile, pictorial and gestural qualities are accentuated.



Speaking in general terms, the importance of the arts is that they set up the potential for an aesthetic experience, which is simply an exchange of energy between a person who makes something and the person who comes into contact with it and has a meaningful experience as a result. My aim in the studio has always been to find the shortest, most unencumbered route to chat experience, which means working with things that are not open to interpretation and therefore the most direct and least confusing as possible.nSubject matter in painting is only an excuse to participate in the attività of making a painting. Subject matter can be a "hook" that pulls you in from across the room, or it can be like the armature in a traditional sculpture, just something to hang your materials on. But the real communicative potential of any painting, representational or not, is contained in the actual, physical materiality of the thing itself. Since the advent of the camera in the mid 19th century, painters from the Impressionists to Robert Ryman have been reducing their imagery in han attempt to put the emphasis on the "painting", rather than on the "picture". Giorgio Morandi spent the majority of his career painting the same bottles and boxes over and over emphasizing the fact that the specifics of subject matter are not important. Robert Ryman makes only white paintings. Sherrie Levine makes paintings using stripes and checkerboards as "generic" subject matter so they aren't open to mis-interpretation. Frank Stella's paintings were the first for which the term, "painting as object" was applied, but all paintings are objects whether they have recognizable subject matter or not, so what's important is not "what" has been painted, but "how" it's been painted, or, just the fact the it "has" been painted. So if it's not important "what" has been painted, then, referring to the Duchampian idea of function relative to context and intent, anything can be painted. The works comprising the exhibition, "There to Here", are all things I have come upon and responded to because of their inherent visual and tactile qualities, and their sense of history and of having been used. I like to think of these qualities as the subject, or "hook" which initially attracts one to the piece, and the painting I add to it as bringing it into the context of contemporary art. And as with Ryman's white paintings or Morandi's bottles, there is no question as to what they are. Hopefully te set up the potential for an aesthetic experience and become the source of a meaningful, positive exchange.

Stuart Arends, 2015